I love a good minimalist puzzler, and Lines doesn’t disappoint. To be fair, this isn’t new news. Gamious released this delightfully tranquil game about racing colourful lines a couple of years back on mobile. Now it’s made its way to Steam, with 250 levels, a Workshop-integrated editor, and full Twitch support.
Lines is a game all about painting…well…lines. Except that you don’t really paint the lines themselves, you simply click to drop a little dot onto a picture, and then it automatically scoots off along the outline until the picture is complete. The trouble is that there are other dots doing the same thing, and the aim of the game is to cover more of the picture or pattern than the other AI players.
It’s a gloriously simple premise, but not a particularly taxing one. This isn’t a game about bashing your head against increasingly difficult conundrums until you find your eureka moment. Instead, Lines is more of a zen experience, gently stimulating the brain, and adding in little plinky-plonky piano trills as the different lines meet one another. Succeed at the level, and this little musical flurry will end in a major chord. Fail, and you’ll be greeted with a slightly despondent minor. But there are no load times, and dot placement is randomised, so no replays are ever the same.
It’s easy to while away quite a bit of time playing Lines. I found myself drifting into something of a meditative reverie, even more so than when I was playing on mobile. With the latter, I often found myself playing while watching Netflix, or in shorter bursts. On PC, it’s quite easy to lose an hour or two.
It helps that there are multiple game modes. Complete the first ten levels, and you’ll unlock new kinds of puzzles that have you erasing enemy dots to strategically allow you to advance, snipping sections of the level outlines to cut off AI lines, and adding to the outlines themselves to allow for shortcuts and additional spaces to colour in. Finally, you’ll unlock a blend of all of the introduced mechanisms, with levels that challenge you to deploy dots, cuts, new outlines, and the powers of erasure in a set sequence.
It’s all very tranquil and calming, helped by some inventive level design that ranges from parquet flooring to the outline of the Sydney Opera House and Gamious’ own company logo. If there is a gripe, it’s that the game’s Bronze, Silver, and Gold ranks are only earned by replaying levels and achieving a certain number of consecutive wins. Even with random dot generation making every replay of a level different, in reality the winning strategies on a level remain broadly the same. Gunning for Gold requires ten consecutive wins on the same level, by which time you’re absolutely sick of looking at the thing.
That is a problem mitigated somewhat by the level editor, and Steam Workshop integration. As it stands currently, there is not a huge amount of user content yet, but as people get involved, hopefully we’ll see some cool creations. As you can see in the video, I attempted to create a level based on myself…with mixed results. One obstacle is that the editor itself is not terribly intuitive at first. It’s not immediately clear that you need to place nodes and then draw lines between them, but once you’ve gotten over that little hurdle, it’s actually super easy to start crafting levels. You can determine what kind of tools are at the player’s disposal, how many dots the level begins with, and so on.
The other thing that Gamious are touting strongly with this PC release is the full Twitch integration. Once you’ve completed all of the necessary setup requirements, and you go live, your viewers will be able to vote in real time on where you should place your dots. Each level will get broken down into a grid, and Twitch viewers can type little commands in the chat identifying their preference. If you win the level, those who voted for the winning grid reference get a point. If you lose, they lose a point. First to ten points wins. It’s a really nice way to foster some interaction and make a game that might not be the most exciting proposition for a livestream come alive in a completely different way. This sort of thing is perfect for chillout streams, and broadcasts where everyone’s just looking to have a whole bunch of interactive fun, and kudos to Gamious for thinking outside of the box in this regard.
Ultimately, Lines is a great little pickup for under £4. If you like your gentle, innovative puzzlers, and I absolutely do, it’s well worth a look. The only thing to really consider is what platform you should get it on. I have to say, there’s something really nice about kicking back on the couch with this on mobile, but I found it to be more relaxing on PC, and if you’re a streamer, the Twitch integration really makes the PC version a no-brainer.
Review copy provided by publisher. Click here to check out the scoring guide.
Like all of the best minimalist puzzle games, Lines is a brilliant exploration of a single, simple concept. It's a wonderfully relaxing game, and although it has arrived perhaps a little late on PC, it's to be hoped that the Steam community takes to it, and streamers make use of Lines' well-worked Twitch integration.